noun hi·a·tus \hī-ˈā-təs\

Definition of hiatus

  1. 1a :  a break in or as if in a material object :  gap the weedy hiatus between the town and the railroad — Willa Cather the hiatus between the theory and the practice of the party — J. G. Coltonb biology :  a gap or passage in an anatomical part or organ

  2. 2a :  an interruption in time or continuity :  break; especially :  a period when something (as a program or activity) is suspended or interrupted after a 5-year hiatus from writing a summer hiatusb :  the occurrence of two vowel sounds without pause or intervening consonantal sound

hiatus was our Word of the Day on 05/13/2012. Hear the podcast!

Examples of hiatus in a sentence

  1. The band is making an album again after a five-year hiatus.

  2. steam was rising from an hiatus in the ground

Did You Know?

Hiatus comes from "hiare," a Latin verb meaning "to gape" or "to yawn," and first appeared in English in the middle of the 16th century. Originally, the word referred to a gap or opening in something, such as a cave opening in a cliff. In the 18th century, Laurence Sterne used the word humorously in his novel Tristram Shandy, writing of "the hiatus in Phutatorius's breeches." These days, "hiatus" is usually used in a temporal sense to refer to a pause or interruption (as in a song), or a period during which an activity is temporarily suspended (such as a hiatus from teaching).

Origin and Etymology of hiatus

Latin, from hiare to yawn — more at yawn

First Known Use: 1563

HIATUS Defined for English Language Learners


noun hi·a·tus \hī-ˈā-təs\

Definition of hiatus for English Language Learners

  • : a period of time when something (such as an activity or program) is stopped

Medical Dictionary


noun hi·a·tus \hī-ˈāt-əs\

Medical Definition of hiatus

  1. :  a gap or passage through an anatomical part or organ; especially :  an opening through which another part or organ passes (such as the opening in the diaphragm through which the esophagus and vagus nerves pass)

Seen and Heard

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capable of being understood in two ways

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